The Scarlet Letter

The RCJ has a story this morning about SB65 which seeks to add individuals that knowingly infect someone with the HIV virus through sexual contact to the sex offender registry. Besides my wondering how many people a bill like this would actually cover in South Dakota in regards to our legislators spending time debating such a bill, I just know that it could ultimately open up a much bigger can of worms.

The act of intentionally infecting someone with HIV has already been addressed in the penal code with SDCL 22-18-31 which makes the act a felony to which a very quick and unscientific search resulted in me finding only one person actually being charged  under the law in the several years it has been in effect. While charging and prosecuting offenders is very necessary and placing them on the registry is in no way a bad thing, the side effects of this proposed bill can be seen by just browsing through the comments of the RCJ story. It shows just how ignorant and intolerant some in our rural state still are in regards to HIV/AIDS. One in particular that identified themselves as “Hermosa Resident”.

” All HIV+ people should have to register not just the crimminal ones! “

And after taking a beating about that comment the same individual followed up with

” I’m not suggesting that we say HIV+ people have to be listed as a sex offender I’m suggesting that all HIV+ people register. We have a right to know if our neighbor has HIV! “

It still amazes me that in the almost 30 years we have been living with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that we haven’t progressed very far from Ronald Reagan’s indifference based largely on his discriminatory beliefs towards gays and his pandering to the religious right and Jerry Falwell (AIDS is the wrath of God upon homosexuals”). Considering the outright ignorance, stupidity, and hatred that still exists today, can Hermosa Resident’s call for HIV/AIDS infectee registration be too far away? What other deadly illness can be thought of where the people that contract the disease are often hated more than the disease itself?

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